Montrose Beach is Chicago’s largest public beach. It is located in Lincoln Park, one of the city's oldest and largest parks, and has much to offer its visitors, human and otherwise!
Montrose Beach Dunes
Montrose Beach Dunes is a natural reserve located at the Eastern end of the beach. It was originally part of Lincoln Park (alongside a further 1,000 acres) and was formed from a landfill.
The area has been developing into its current state since 2001 when the Chicago Park District decided to stop combing the area, hoping to encourage dune formation. Consequently, the site now contains a beach, a foredune, and a globally rare ‘panne’ habitat — a flat, wet and sandy open area — which supports numerous endangered plant species. In 2005, The Dunes was added to the statewide list of high-quality natural habitats by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
More recently The Dunes have become an important area for foraging, migrating, and resident birds, including the federally endangered Great Lakes piping plover, which was first spotted at The Dunes in 2019. In total, over 300 bird species have been recorded at Montrose Beach Dunes and the adjacent Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, making it a wonderful spot for bird-watchers during the Spring and Fall months.
This beautiful natural reserve would not be what it is today, however, without the dedication and tender loving care of its hard-working community volunteers. Over the years, these volunteers have assisted in collecting and planting native seeds, picking up rubbish, monitoring flora and fauna, and removing harmful plantlife, such as weeds.
Amenities at Montrose Beach
Montrose Beach offers plenty of food and beverage hot spots including Boucher Brothers, Noel’s Tacos, Morelos Concession, JI Concession and The Dock. The Dock is considered the most popular destination and has become a hub of late night merriment. It offers tasty meals, thirst-quenching cocktails, and live music throughout the summer months!
As well as delicious food stalls there are also large grassy areas surrounding the beach, perfect for picnickers and those seeking shelter from the midday heat.
Now, whilst we can appreciate that some beach bums are happy to spend the whole day sizzling away in the sunshine with a good book (or scrolling through the delightful blog pages of The Secret City!), we are also aware that there are equal numbers who, like ourselves, need a healthy balance of sunbathing AND activities. In this regard Montrose Beach is the epitome of a people-pleaser.
Typical activities at Montrose Beach include jet skiing, beach volleyball, sailing lessons, day camps for local children and kiteboarding. Lifeguards are on duty from 11am until 7pm to keep swimmers safe. Beach goers can even access the Lake Michigan Water Trail from the Wilcon Avenue ramp at the South end of the beach, taking out kayaks for an afternoon of exploration.
Montrose Dog Beach
There is also a designated Dog Beach to the North of Montrose Beach. In this fenced-in and off-leash area owners can take comfort, safe in the knowledge that their pups are joining in with the holiday excitement — honestly what more could you ask for from a beach?
Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our Chicago Scavenger Hunts - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of Chicago and beyond!